Palmer & Harvey is poised to make a fourth major round of job cuts in less than two years, The Grocer can reveal.

In a joint statement to staff with union Usdaw, seen by The Grocer, the wholesaler confirmed 85 redundancies were expected following an "extremely challenging" 12 months, in which it lost customers First Quench, Wine Cellar, Borders, WH Smith, Somerfield and One Stop.

The redundancies are understood to be largely head office roles, including senior positions.

"Following a detailed process review, P&H is consulting with a number of employees in relation to their current employment with the company," a spokeswoman said.

"The final number of redundancies will not be known until the process is completed. It is the company's intention to redeploy employees within the group where possible."

The news will come as a devastating blow to a workforce that has already been subjected to three known rounds of redundancies.

In September 2008 the wholesaler closed its alcohol distribution company Winerite in Leeds, affecting 70 jobs. In December 2008, about 50 jobs were axed at P&H's HQ in Hove and 12 regional sales roles were lost. Last August, 71 jobs were lost when it turned its Yeovil depot into a transhipment depot following a restructuring programme to improve efficiency.

However, the 70,673 sq ft depot, which P&H acquired in August 2007 when it bought wholesaler T&A Symonds for an undisclosed sum, has since closed, with the loss of a "very small" number of jobs. It was put on the market this month and is being marketed by property consultants Alder King.

P&H also revealed in the statement that there would be a pay freeze this year. However, it insisted it remained optimistic for the future, adding that the issues it was facing were short-term and that it expected to secure a number of new customers.

It had also appointed about 200 new staff in the past 12 months, P&H pointed out.

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